On Saturday, October 25, 2008, the Free Gaza Movement sent our formal notice to Israel, the Occupying Power in the Gaza Strip, that we intend to enter the port of Gaza City on October 29. We expect no interference from the Israeli authorities. Although our message acknowledges Israel's control over Gaza, we do not accept Israel's right to prevent us from sailing into the Gaza Strip. [See attachment for text of the letter].
As part of the message, we invited Aharon Abramovitz, Minister of Foreign Affairs and/or Ehud Barak, Minister of Defense, to join the voyage to witness first hand the devastating effects of Israel's illegal policies on the occupied civilian population of the Gaza Strip (Please leave your weapons at home, we are nonviolent).
Huwaida Arraf, a spokesperson for the Free Gaza Movement said, "Israel is committing war crimes by imposing collective punishment on the 1.5 million people in Gaza. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions prohibits their actions. However, since Israel is the Occupying Power and maintains effective control of the area, we have put them on notice that we're coming. Since they grossly abuse their power, we are not asking them for their permission."
Israel continues to exert behind-the-scenes pressure on many of the people who have been assisting the Free Gaza Movement, hoping they can stop the boat before it leaves port. Despite their massive pressure, threats and intimidation last August, Israel ultimately admitted to the world that we were nonviolent and did not constitute any kind of security threat, and our boats sailed safely into the port of Gaza, the first boats filled with Internationals to arrive there in 41 years. Israel is at it again, this time trying to stop us before we leave the port.
"It's ridiculous that Israel is so frightened of us. We are carrying doctors and human rights activists, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire. We also have medical supplies on board our boat; there is absolutely no reason why they should stand in our way this time either," said organizer Greta Berlin.
Official Notification of Intent to Enter (Attachment sent by email and fax)
October 25, 2008
To: The Israeli Ministry of Defense, Fax: 972-3-697-6717
To: The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fax 972-2-5303367
From: The Free Gaza Movement
This letter serves as a formal notification to you as the Occupying Power in the Gaza Strip that on October 28, 2008, (weather permitting) we are navigating a vessel from the Port of Larnaca to the port of Gaza City. Our vessel will be flying the flag of Gibraltar, and, as such, falls under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.
We will be sailing from Cypriot waters into international waters, then directly into the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip without entering or nearing Israeli territorial waters.
We are carrying 6 cubic meters of urgently needed medical supplies in sealed boxes, cleared by customs at the Larnaca International Airport. There will be a total of 26 passengers and crew on board, among them several physicians. Our boat and cargo will also have received security clearance from the Port Authorities in Cyprus before we depart.
As it will be confirmed that neither we, nor the cargo, nor any of the boat's contents, nor the boat itself constitute any threat to the security of Israel or its armed forces, we do not expect any interference with our voyage by Israel's authorities.
We hereby extend an invitation to Aharon Abramovitz from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Ehud Barak from the Ministry of Defense to join us on board so that they can witness the draconian effects of Israel's policies on the civilian population of the occupied Gaza Strip.
The Steering Committee of the Free Gaza Movement
Contact: Greta Berlin, Cyprus: +357 99 08 17 67
Angela Godfrey Goldstein, Jerusalem: +972 547 366 393
Huwaida Arraf: Cyprus +357 96 723 999